Cell phones helping combat crime


The use of use cell phones by witnesses to call 911 represents one of the many technological improvements that are helping to combat crime, according to 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District commander Roger Bay.

Cell phones allow people to report a crime immediately, rather that having to look for a pay phone, Bay said at an April 21 business safety forum held by area chambers of commerce.

Investigations also are aided by the automated processing of fingerprints into computer databases, and surveillance cameras on stores and homes can provide police with clear descriptions of offenders and their cars, Bay said.

Those technological advancements appear to be having a positive effect, as the city experienced double-digit declines in reported robberies, burglaries and vehicle thefts in 2014 compared to the previous year, Bay said. "There are thousands of fewer victims in the city," he said. "This is good news for the city as a whole."

There were 117 robberies reported in the district in 2014, including 24 incidents at businesses, and 611 burglaries, including 26 commercial break-ins, Bay said. "That’s a little over two (robberies) a week," he said. "There are areas of the city where they are experiencing three a day."

The number of robberies in the district last year was down by about 70 percent from the early 1990s, when there were about 400 a year, and there were about a 1,000 fewer burglaries than there were in a typical year in the mid-1980s, according to police.

A recent study found that four of the five safest neighborhoods in the city are in the 16th District, Bay said. Edison Park, Forest Glen, Norwood Park and Dunning were recognized for their low amount of "public violence," including batteries that are not domestic-related, he said.
Bay asked the business owners at the meeting to "take ownership" of their block by picking up garbage in front of vacant storefronts and by calling 311 to report a street or alley light that is out. "Light is the number one deterrent for burglars," Bay said. "They don’t want to be seen or noticed."

Bay also recommended that merchants get to know the owners of the other businesses on their block and the residents who live nearby. Bay said that neighbors who report suspicious activity are often responsible for a burglar being arrested and that shopkeepers should provide neighbors with their cell phone number in case of an emergency.

Merchants at the meeting were asked to fill out the Chicago Police Department’s emergency contact card so that police can call a business owner when a crime occurs at a store when it is closed. Cards can be obtained by calling the district’s community policing office at 312-742-4521 or the Gladstone Park Chamber of Commerce at 773-775-8871.